Bennelong Papers

Crying ‘Racism’ for a Free Kick

racist nationAs someone with Aboriginal ancestry, I feel compelled to discuss the allegations of racism that have been dominating the media of late, with AFL star and all-round nice guy Adam Goodes at the centre of the storm. First, I don’t see him as the major reason for the furore. Neither do I believe racism is the cause, though some would have you believe it is. Rather, several factors have converged to sustain a story that, by rights, should have died quickly: a manipulative media and the insatiable hunger for attention that characterise what I call the ‘race bloodhounds’ who are always eager to catch the whiff of any and all perceived ‘racism’.

Professional ‘blactivists’ delight for reasons that will be discussed later in this article in talking about the assumed racism directed at Aborigines. All who dare challenge the absurd notion that Australia is racist to the core are themselves accused of being racist or, as I know from personal experience, branded a sell-out, an Uncle Tom or a coconut (brown on the outside, white underneath). So, if you are a blactivist or race bloodhound, don’t bother reading any further. The same psychology that lets you see racism where there is none dictates that, regardless of the argument presented, you will walk away even more convinced of your core position, which can be summarised thus: any criticism of, or disagreement with, any Aborigine for any reason represents a clear and irrefutable example of racism. It is a sad reaction, but a predictable one: that which does not start with reason will not end by reason.

Much of the controversy has been the product of media manipulation, rather than of Adam’s own doing. I do not believe Adam has been milking this fiasco; indeed, it is obvious he has been deeply upset by it. But some media outlets certainly have been playing it up, and very much at his expense. Consider the booing, which is a hallmark of bog-standard mob mentality, not necessarily of racism. However, some have found it very convenient to respond with the truism “there is no place for racism on or off the field”. Few would disagree with that, but where is the evidence that the crowd’s booing was prompted by an inherent dislike of Adam based purely on his racial identity? The Northern Territory’s Senator Nigel Scullion, a Country Liberal, is reported as saying, “There is definitely an element of bigotry and racism there”, but where is his evidence? You need to do better, Senator, and abandon the habit of thinking in clichés.

Thanks to some sectors of the media, which understand what sells papers and attracts viewers, a young girl’s sledging has been framed as overt racism. Call her behaviour rude, disrespectful, even disgusting, but racism it wasn’t. Those self-serving media outlets used the incident as their platform to preach about racism. It is good to talk about and address genuine racism, but let’s not pretend it exists where it does not. The truth is that the incident was grossly mis-handled: the girl, just 13, should never have been taken away from her guardians and detained for two hours after the match. However, be that as it may, the incident can provide an opportunity to talk about the serious problems facing Aborigines today. These are ills many prefer not to recognise.

A critical factor stirring the racism debate is the desire of people to be seen as doing something to address the problems facing Aborigines. We know that Aborigines have poorer health, higher rates of unemployment, elevated suicide rates, and much more. These are difficult issues to address. Further, it is widely known (though rather less widely spoken about) that the Aboriginal population generally sees levels of violence, child abuse, and foetal alcohol syndrome far above average. Difficult to fix, very few blactivists wish even to acknowledge these problems. Raising such matters does not win popularity contests, as I have learnt first-hand. I have been called far worse things than ‘ape’ by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people for daring to mention these issues and others. It has been my experience that if these topics are raised, the race bloodhounds will come back with, ‘Yeah but these problems are in every community.’ What they neglect to mention is that they occur in some Aboriginal communities at rates far higher than in the general population.

As these problems have no easy solution, finding a distraction is the more attractive option, with claims of racism being the perfect distraction. After all, yelling “Australia is racist” is far easier than saying “we need to reduce the high levels of violence and child abuse that are stealing another generation”. Skim through the social media posts dedicated to Aboriginal issues and observe how few, if any, make the point that Aborigines are harming other Aborigines at alarmingly high rates. Instead, what you find is plenty of articles vilifying white Australia, ranting about racism, blaming colonisation and the government for every problem facing Aborigines. If any explanation for high rates of violence and child abuse is offered, it will be the baseless claim that racism, history, and white Australia are the cause of these problems.

There is another reason why many are so quick to yell racism. Proclaiming “racism is terrible and I oppose it!” allows the speaker to usurp the high moral ground and take on the role (if only in the imagination) of saint, rescuer, and hero. They can feel they have made a difference while actually doing nothing of value. Editors of newspapers and webpage administrators wallow in this self-adulation and warm, fuzzy self-regard. The truth is that those who promote the convenient myth of endemic racism succeed in diverting attention from the issues they prefer not to discuss. The distraction they provide from real problems and real solutions is thoroughly destructive.

Returning to Adam, let me repeat that while the young girl’s behaviour was not ideal, it definitely was not racism, however much the race-bloodhounds and opinionistas want to ram it down your throat that it was. People have been critical of Adam’s initial response to the taunting. While many would have liked him to respond more gently, none of us can claim never to have put a foot wrong in life, especially when emotion is strong, which is likely the case on the football field before a crowd of thousands. His critics should consider that. To his credit, Adam was quick to understand the girl’s foolishness and forgive her, yet many still haven’t forgiven him for his instinctive response and are quick to remind him of it.

How might Adam feel about being constantly reminded of his initial, ill-advised response? He likely feels the same way white Australia feels about being repeatedly reminded of colonisation and the destruction of  Adam’s ancestors (and mine). Recall his words: “Over 225 years, the Europeans, and now the governments that run our country, have raped, killed and stolen from my people … I now find it hard to say I am proud to be Australian”. Could the use of such words possibly be one reason why some Australians are annoyed and express that anger with boos?

Like Adam, I agree that we should talk about history, but let’s not forget the present. We should  listen to Senator Nova Peris when she says that an Aboriginal woman in the Northern Territory is eighty times more likely to be hospitalised for assault than Territorians of other backgrounds. As I have said, I agree that we should talk about racism, but let’s not claim it exists where it does not. When Aboriginal people are told repeatedly that racism is everywhere and that’s what is causing them to live in shocking conditions, they are less likely to focus on what they can do to make a difference in their lives. And let’s not forget, that many thousands of Aboriginal people have made a positive difference in their lives.

When the dust settles — and Adam’s appearance with his Swans in this weekend’s match against Geelong may prolong it — we can all get back to enjoying the football. Australians will continue to be as they were before the incident in relation to Aborigines: embracing, caring and generous. I suspect, however, that the race bloodhounds will continue to be on the lookout for the “racism” that suits their agendas. If they can’t find the genuine article, expect them to create it.

While all this is going on, can we please think about how best to address hunger, poverty, unsafe and unclean living conditions, violence, crime, poor health, unemployment, battered women, uneducated and neglected children, plus the other genuine problems we know that afflict Aboriginal Australians.

  • [email protected]

    Thank you. Well expressed and spot-on for me.

  • Dave Price

    I still cannot see how the term ‘ape’ is inherently racist. In the fine, manly game of rugby, either league or union, I doubt there would be a successful player who has not been called an ape regardless of ethnicity. If there is he isn’t trying hard enough. In my town of Alice Springs a citizen in the street, and most definitely on the playing field, is far more likely to be racially vilified in obscene terms if he or she is white, African or Asian rather than Aboriginal. The same goes for physical assault. I have known several non-Aboriginal citizens and visitors, of both sexes and all ages, to have been assaulted by young Aboriginal delinquents in the street. The only time my Aboriginal wife and daughter have been verbally abused in the streets of our town it has been by young, drunk Aboriginal men. The message these delinquents are getting from the media is that you have to be white to be racist and because of historic abuses it’s OK to vilify and assault, both verbally and physically, non-Aboriginal victims. Adam Goodes has been called a ‘strong leader and role model’. Yet he has not once, as far as I know, even recognised the existence of the problems that Anthony refers to in his article let alone proposed solutions. Those who push the victim stereotype or the grievance agenda are lauded and awarded, those who draw attention to the problems actually killing Aboriginal people that they actually could take responsibility for and do something about themselves, as Anthony notes, are vilified in far worse terms than ‘ape’. My family have been the subject of death threats from an ‘activist’ based in Brisbane. A quote from a middle aged Aboriginal woman in Alice Springs – ‘Adam Goodes makes us ashamed, he acts like a child’. That won’t make it into the media.

  • [email protected]

    This article is way too kind to Adam Goodes. All his other qualities notwithstanding, he is obsessed with his Aboriginality. When others see him simply as a very capable AFL player, he sees himself primarily as an Aboriginal man who plays AFL. He shares this attribute with practically all the blacktivists (if I may borrow the term), particularly those who are also successful in their respective professions. They cease every opportunity to flaunt their Aboriginality, combined with the usual tirade of accusing everyone under the sun for the plight of “their people” without the slightest hint that at least some of the fault lie with them. This is what’s known as the Aboriginal industry which is an excellent institution for the benefit of those operating within it but absolutely useless for resolving any of the problems it preaches about. As for racism, no one is more racist than those obsessed with their own racial origin.

  • pgang

    Dave Price, the term ‘ape’ is a fallout of Darwinian evolutionary racism. Darwin himself of course was a first class racist and eugenicist. So calling someone an ‘ape’ is to equate them with an imaginary earlier species in the popular evolutionary fairy-tale of human ancestry via genomic mutation; ie – an ape-like creature.

    Traditionally, neo-Darwinian eugenicist-racists considered dark skinned people to look more like earlier ‘humanoids’ than white people, therefore they were considered less advanced than whites, and therefore of less value (a ‘lower species’) in the evolutionary scheme of things. So referring to an aborigine as an ‘ape’ is to implicitly call upon those decades of utterly brain-dead evolutionary racism.

    Planned Parenthood in the USA was founded on all this nonsense.

    Another brilliant turn-out from the beloved ‘Enlightenment’.

    • Anthony

      pgang at one time ‘ape’ may have meant what you have suggested but that was then. It is very unlikely that when the girl said ‘ape’ she was not thinking of ” imaginary earlier species in the popular evolutionary fairy-tale of human ancestry via genomic mutation”. Therefore there was no racism involved.

      “So referring to an aborigine as an ‘ape’ is to implicitly call upon those decades of utterly brain-dead evolutionary racism.” – according you to maybe pgang.

  • pgang

    Bill Martin I would add that Goodes’ behavior on the field had also become increasingly unsportsman-like, which is what started aggravating people in the first place.

    The 13 year old girl incident was the icing on the cake of what had already been a process of ever increasing preciousness. Dillon tries to excuse this incident as being spur-of-the-moment, but that is never a defence for bad behavior, particularly from one so privileged against, of all people, a Collingwood supporter. 🙂

    And from there it just got worse, as Goodes went to war against footy supporters with his stupid antics, and Australians in general with his anti-Australian rants. He has lost all respect from most footy fans I speak to, who are experiencing that sense of helpless frustration that comes from being trodden on by a form of totalitarianism within the AFL elite and the media. Branded as racist for calling out unsportsman-like conduct, and being told how to behave at the game by the players themselves, there is a sense of incomprehension about what has suddenly happened to the game. Many, like myself, have given up on the rest of this season as an insulting joke.

    The AFL has effectively turned against and divided its fan base. It’s not something for Goodes to be proud of, nor should it be the source of self pity. He is not the victim here. I also stress that Goodes isn’t the only one. There has been a growing industry of player-elitism going on for some time now. The players now seem to be more precious than the game itself.

  • Jody

    All of this is trivial talk around the margins. What we have is Thought Policing of the type Russians experienced in the old Soviet Union. First of all they were propagandized from an early age, then actively encouraged by the state to spy on each other and report any ‘transgressive’ behaviour. This racism phenomenon in Australia is the nature corollary to that kind of Thought Policing. Call it out for what it is; control, propaganda and thought policing.

  • rosross

    This is a considered and considerate piece. One could argue as someone seeks to do that it is ‘gentle’ with Adam Goodes but how can that be a bad thing? When we berate and condemn we add fuel to the fire. Anthony Dillon makes some sound and sensible points.

    Goodes is clearly a damaged individual and is probably putting his unresolved ‘rage’ at his father onto all non-indigenous Australians. He is obsessed with claiming Aboriginality even though it is a small part of his ancestral heritage and he is obsessed with playing victim and blaming non-indigenous Australians, alive and dead, since 1788, but he is no orphan there and is merely mouthing the propaganda of the Aboriginal Industry as it is supported by its academic acolytes.

  • [email protected]

    You quote Adam Goodes as saying: ““Over 225 years, the Europeans, and now the governments that run our country, have raped, killed and stolen from my people … I now find it hard to say I am proud to be Australian”.
    Does he realise that he is accusing current governments around Australia of actually being involved in rape, murder, and theft? This then implies that all of the citizens who support these governments are also guilty of this. I recon that the booing is not going far enough. I think that a person who smears our whole nation like this and drags it’s reputation through the mud in this way doesn’t deserve to be an Australian or considered as such by his fellow citizens.

    Booing was too good for him.

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